FRISCO, Texas – Tyler Smith is a bit too young to remember Larry Allen's career, but he's done his homework.
A self-professed student of the game, the Cowboys' newest offensive lineman is plenty familiar with one the franchise's greatest players and the legacy he established.
"I'm a younger guy, so Larry Allen is before my time. But I caught on," Smith said on Friday afternoon. "Sonoma State, all the adversity he went through to get here and the Hall of Fame career he had, just the way he played."
From the smaller school to the guard/tackle flexibility, there are some obvious similarities between the Cowboys' newest draftee and their greatest guard. Perhaps that's why the organization decided to give Smith No. 73 – a gesture that wasn't lost on the rookie.
"Larry Allen wore that number, and I've seen a lot of the adversity he went through early in his life and I feel like I resonate with a lot of that," he said. "It means a lot to be able to wear that and carry on that legacy."
These are the kinds of lofty comparisons that get thrown around in all 32 NFL cities, every draft weekend. It's been just two years since the Cowboys handed No. 88 to CeeDee Lamb in similar circumstances.
To his credit, Smith seems to understand perfectly the work that comes next. He's a 21-year-old football player who started just 23 college games during his time at Tulsa. The Cowboys have not shied away from the fact that he'll need to work on his technique.
Just as he said Thursday night in the moments immediately following the pick, Smith isn't afraid to take coaching.
"I want people to know that I'm trying to constantly improve in everything I do," he said. "I'm just scratching the surface of what I can be."
Smith isn't anything close to a finished product. That's exciting for the Cowboys, but it has drawn plenty of criticism. With more accomplished players like Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum and Utah's Devin Lloyd sitting on the board, there are many onlookers who believe pick No. 24 was too rich for what many people deem to be a developing player.
If Smith has heard any of the criticism leveled at the Cowboys' decision to pick him, it certainly didn't show in his upbeat demeanor. More to the point, he let the world know how he felt about it in memorable fashion.
"Everybody has an opinion – it's like buttholes. Everybody has one," he said.
That'll be the quote that gets played every year at draft time, but the next bit might've been even more prescient. As Tyler Smith sets out to create his own NFL legacy, they'll be good words to keep in mind.
"You never want somebody else's opinion of you to become your reality, and I simply won't let it," he said. "I understand criticism, I take it well. I'm always working to get better at the same time."